Vérités Bergères

Frank Kermode

  • Lilac and Flag by John Berger
    Granta, 211 pp, £12.99, January 1991, ISBN 0 14 014214 2

This is the third volume of John Berger’s trilogy, ‘Into their Labours’ (‘Others have laboured and ye are entered into their labours,’ John 4.38). The enterprise has occupied him at intervals for 17 years, so it is not surprising that the result is a work of considerable density. But it has a simple enough theme, suggested by its title and developed at some length in a ‘Historical Afterward’ to the first volume, Pig Earth (1979). This essay seeks to ‘make the relation between particular and universal’ more explicit than it can be in a story which is not just a simple parable. It gives a plain account of an argument that is bound to be obscured, or merely implied, when transformed by a narrative that has many other things to do besides preaching, and might be impaired by too manifest a political message.

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